A PRO­LIFIC WRITER

An old friend lies stricken in hos­pi­tal bed

New Straits Times - - Opinion - syed­nadzri@gmail.com The writer is a for­mer NST group edi­tor

IRehman has been a healthy man as far as I can re­mem­ber. I have known him for 50 years ever since we were at the Malay Col­lege Kuala Kangsar. Though we were not class­mates since I was a year older, the fully res­i­den­tial school was such that we knew one an­other close enough.”

T has been about six weeks now and Rehman Rashid seems to be mak­ing steady progress as he lay in bed in Ward 5D at Se­layang Hos­pi­tal, his eyes wide open at times and tears rolling down “once in a while”, ac­cord­ing to a close fam­ily friend.

Apart from that, he showed no emo­tion when I came by to visit him on Satur­day. But, at least he is no longer mo­tion­less in the In­ten­sive Care Unit, hav­ing all kinds of tubes and wires punc­tured through and across his body. And, he is not even breath­ing through a ven­ti­la­tor.

The doc­tors have in­sti­tuted tra­cheotomy to en­able him to breathe prop­erly and to over­come prob­lems with mu­cus and other se­cre­tions get­ting into the wind­pipe be­cause of dif­fi­culty swal­low­ing.

I was there when a nurse per­formed the tra­cheotomy and I was fight­ing to with­hold my tears.

Rehman, a writer and a for­mer as­so­ciate edi­tor of the New

Straits Times, was taken to hos­pi­tal un­con­scious on Jan 26, when dur­ing his reg­u­lar cy­cling ex­er­cises in Kuala Kubu Baru, he had to stop abruptly by the side of the road and lay there with­out signs of move­ment.

He was sus­pected to have suf­fered a heart at­tack.

Doc­tors put him on a ven­ti­la­tor and un­der se­da­tion. A few days later, his MRI brain scan showed def­i­nite oxy­gen de­fi­ciency dam­age in ar­eas that might af­fect move­ment, rea­son­ing, thought pro­cess­ing and con­scious­ness.

Rehman has been a healthy man as far as I can re­mem­ber. I have known him for 50 years ever since we were at the Malay Col­lege Kuala Kangsar. Though we were not class­mates since I was a year older, the fully res­i­den­tial school was such that we knew one an­other close enough.

He has the gift of the gab from the be­gin­ning. So ar­tic­u­late was he that he was the main­stay of the all-con­quer­ing school de­bat­ing team when he was merely in Form Three. Prob­a­bly he de­vel­oped an elo­quent per­son­al­ity that early with a husky voice, plus a tall phys­i­cal ex­te­rior to match.

His last post­ing in the NST was as as­so­ciate edi­tor, dou­bling up as the man in charge of the opin­ion sec­tion of the pa­per.

He had the eyes of a hawk when it came to spot­ting mis­takes that might have es­caped ev­ery­one else. At times, you could hear his un­am­bigu­ous guf­faws across the news­room.

He was a pro­lific writer when he put his mind to it and just got two of his books pub­lished.

One, Penin­sula, is a sequel to his 30-year-old best­seller A

Malaysian Jour­ney, a so­cial com­men­tary. The other, A Small

Town, is about Kuala Kubu Baru where he has been stay­ing for the past few years.

I last vis­ited him at that town at the foot of Fraser’s Hill three months back, to­gether with old class­mates Datuk Shukri Hussin and Mo­hamad Is­mail Ibrahim.

He was stay­ing alone on the first floor of a shop­house. The place looked cozy with a well­stacked bookshelf and neatly ar­ranged CDs.

I con­grat­u­lated him for hav­ing such a fine place but asked him whether it would get him lonely.

“At times yes. But, then I am used to it,” he replied. In fact he said he sel­dom moved around in the so­cial world any­more and stopped go­ing for wed­ding re­cep­tions. “I don’t do wed­dings.”

His bi­cy­cle had a pride of place in his abode, hung just be­fore the stair­case to be used most reg­u­larly as he rou­tinely worked out across Kuala Kubu Baru where al­most ev­ery­one knows him.

“I like this place. Only dur­ing week­ends and school hol­i­days does it get crowded.”

He took us for lunch at a ko­pi­tiam and we each had a hearty plate of chicken chop. And, as we were about to leave, Rehman gave me a full hug and there were tears in his eyes.

It was nearly the same scene at his bed­side in Ward 5D at Se­layang Hos­pi­tal on Satur­day.

Rehman stared re­peat­edly at me, though it was a blank stare.

Two books writ­ten by Rehman Rashid

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